I Saw Fierce Models and Senator Feinstein at Two Presidential Inaugural Fashion Shows

By Ted Kruckel January 20, 2009, 5:36 PM EST

Betsey Johnson, Kevan Hall, and Nick Verreos from Project Runway were among the designers showcased.

Photo: Chris Arnold

I was fascinated that there were not one but two Presidential Inaugural Fashion Shows on January 18. And let me tell you how glad I am to have seen both.

As a veteran attendee, promoter, and producer of fashion shows and events, I thought I had seen and done it all. But I was wrong.

Fashion Show Part Un:

At the California State Society’s show and luncheon, held in the expansive Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. ballroom, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, read the now perfunctory list ofher committee’s purchases: 22,000 sheets of plywood for viewing stands, 240,000 tickets with seven different embedded designs, 5,000 portapotties (everyone writes about this), 24 JumboTrons, 28,000 folding chairs. Also there were 329,000 page views of the inaugural luncheon menu on some Web site.

Then the show began.

My editors asked me to keep it brief, so I’ll just mention a few different elements to give you a sense of the breadth and depth of this unusual viewing.

A gentleman with a big gold medallion sang “The Star Spangled Banner” on the runway, and there was a semi-comedic introduction by Project Runway alumn Nick Verreos. Student theatrical fashions were worn by a dance troupe who performed a full on cancan complete with Spanx. A men’s outdoor knitwear show had beefy models sporting pashminas and giant woven cable ponchos and turned into a raunchy, shirtless bump and grind, to which the mostly female audience cat called and wolf whistled. In my notebook I wrote, “Knits and Nuts.”

Chairstyle, which seemed to be a salute to the state’s home furnishers, involved chairs and love seats being placed on the runway while models paraded in large print fashions made from upholstery. Think Jan and Marcia Brady put on a fashion show in their backyard. An Asian designer did Asian looks, many of which appeared hard to walk in. This number was set to Asian music, but I was humming, “It’s a small world, after all.”

A return engagement by Nick Verreos was less successful than his first. For whatever reason, he told us the cost of his Marc Jacobs suit, which was clearly too tight. Let’s hope re-alterations are included. Season five Project Runway winner Leanne Marshall was also on hand to showcase sophisticated summer linen and cotton looks in a subdued and professional manner. Guests yawned.

Fender guitars furnished by Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising graphic design students were vividly colored and, when played, brought the audience back to life. Lots of accessories as the air band knitwear boys gyrated to Guns N' Roses. The fact that the guitars were acoustic made the whole thing, well, odd.

In a nod to patriotism, there were red, white, and blue ball gowns by noted designer Kevan Hall, and the closer offered a “patriotic dance” to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” featuring all of the above named acts, plus glitter.

Entertaining things to note: Every other heirloom tomato was ripe, and the red, white, and blue flowers had two sponsors, and looked it.

Fashion Show Part Deux:

On the other side of the river in Arlington, Virginia, D.C. Fashion Week had a multi-designer fashion show that was so long it needed an intermission. Another first.

Headlined by Betsey Johnson, this modest show was in a small ballroom at Doubletree Hotel Crystal City and had its own pop-up shop in the lobby by local fashion sellers. The merchandise varied wildly from tasteful shawls to blinged-out Obama caps, scarves, and tops that the salesgirls modeled provocatively. I bought two hats and six shirts.

While modest in scale, this show made up for it with an absolutely paralyzing display of fashions—many of which were near pornographic.

Many of the models were well over six-feet tall, and have all paid attention to Tyra at one point or another because they were fierce. I’m not sure, but I think one or two were drag queens.

Some of the clothes were really inventive.
One of the men’s designers, E. Bannister, showed corsets worn over suits, which could catch on. One designer used music overlaid with a Barack Obama speech, which worked. Another sent out a complete first family with two tiny girls who struck a pose. The faux first lady wore a fur-trimmed red satin gown with a train, which didn’t work.

It was a bit of a mess: the sound went down twice; the collections needed major editing; but I would not have missed it for the world.

Back to inaugural ball-hopping.

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